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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Russ 140

Vladimir Nabokov family papers


Compositions drafts, index card notes, galley proofs, family and business correspondence of Vladimir, Vera and Dmitri Nabokov, chess problems, sketches, and address books of the Vladimir and Vera Nabokov, and personal correspondence, computer files and laptops, and model trains of Dmitri Nabokov


  • 1919-2006

Language of Materials

Materials are in Russian and English with some French and Italian

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to most of this material. Collection is open for research.

Surrogates required; consult Houghton staff (series V., Digital and audiovisual material).

Part of this collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.

Restricted; unprocessed; use surrogate only for requests to see physical media carrier. Consult Houghton Technical Services staff.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish Nabokov material should be directed to James Pullen


20 linear feet (17 boxes)
4000.15408 Gigabytes

This collection represents the portion of the Nabokov family archive kept by Dmitri Nabokov at his residence until his death in 2012. Papers include small number of Nabokov's compositions and drafts, childhood comnpositions of Dmitri Nabokov, correspondence, notes, chess problems and correspondence about chess, drawings and sketches, and Dmitri Nabokov's model trains and cars, as well as digital and audiovisual media, and photographs.

Series I: includes partial drafts of Vladimir Nabokov’s later novels: notes for "The Original of Laura," and Russian translation of "Ada," research notes for unrealized project, "Butterflies in Art" and several other compositions; it also includes copies in Nabokov’s hand of several of his poems, and research notes and galley proofs with corrections of the second edition of Nabokov’s translation of Alexander Pushkin’s "Eugene Onegin." Series also includes chess problems composed by Nabokov between the years of 1939 and 1975, and Dmitri Nabokov’s translation drafts of Mikhail Lermontov’s "A Hero of our time" and Vladimir Nabokov’s "The University poem."

Series II: includes letters from Vladimir Nabokov parents to him and his wife Véra, letters from Vladimir and Véra Nabokov to their son Dmitri, and a small number of letters to other correspondents. It also includes letters to Dmitri Nabokov from his high school and college friends, and relatives.

Series III: includes notebooks and address books of Vladimir and Véra Nabokov and index cards with drafts, research notes, drawings, poems, lists of books and household items, notes removed from books in Nabokov’s library, notes from Vladimir to Véra, poems and drawings and anniversary notes addressed and dedicated to Véra, notes to Dmitri and other miscellaneous notes. It also includes notes in Véra’s hand and other unidentified hands

Series IV: includes watercolor and pencil drawings, and sketches by Vladimir Nabokov. Drawings include landscapes, fantastic creatures, caricatures, humorous sketches, and drawings of butterflies.

Series V: includes audio and digital media created by Dmitri Nabokov with his personal and business correspondence, financial files, drafts of translations and original compositions and other files.

Series VI: includes model trains, cars and tracks belonging to Dmitri Nabokov.

Series VII: includes photographs of Vladimir, Véra and Dmitri Nabokov, as well as a few photographs of others.

Series VIII: ibncludes identification papers of extended Nabokov family members, contracts and notes.

Biographical / Historical

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (1899-1977) was a Russian American novelist, translator and lepideptorist. Vera Evseevna Nabokova (née Slonim) (1902-1991) was Nabokov's wife, his editor, and translator of several of Nabokov's novels. She preferred to spell her name as Véra Nabokov. Dmitri Nabokov (1934-2012) was the only son of Vladimir and Véra Nabokov. He was а Harvard graduate, an American opera singer, a semi-professional race car driver and translator of Vladimir Nabokov's poems and novels from Russian into English and Italian.


Arranged into the following series:

I. Compositions and drafts II. Correspondence III. Notebooks and notes IV. Drawings and sketches V. Digital and audiovisual material VI. Model trains and cars

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Special equipment or surrogate required; consult Houghton staff.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2018M-044. Gift of Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation by way of Andrew Wylie from The Wylie Agency LLC in 2017 October.

Separated Materials

Born-digital material has been separated: Russ140BD. 179 books from the Nabokovs personal library have been separated and cataloged individually, search for: Nabokov, Vladimir Vladimirovich, 1899-1977 (former owner) in HOLLIS catalog

General note

Includes audiovisual and/or digital media: floppy disks and laptops.

Processing Information

Processed by Magee Lawhorn and Irina Klyagin, 2019; further processing completed by Monique Lassere, 2022.

Vladimir Nabokov family papers, 1919-2006 (MS Russ 140): Guide
Houghton Library, Harvard University.
January 15, 2019
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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